What are we to do with our short lives?
The meaning of life is that it stops.
I hope reading that sentence placed at least a comma in the flow of your life. What did Franz Kafka mean when he wrote it?
Our time on this earth ends. In all cases. There’s a full stop. For some, the full stop comes at the end of a long, winding tome; for others, it intrudes early in the story. But for all of us, life ends.
Two things. First, we don’t know when our full stop is coming. Really, we don’t. We may expect to live seven decades or more, but that’s just playing probabilities. You probably won’t die tomorrow, but you certainly might. Whoever you are.
Second, we don’t know what happens after we die. Really, we don’t. We might ascend to heaven or be plunged into hell. We may simply end this version of our reality and continue with others. Or we may just terminate. Some have faith to guide them beyond the full stop, others don’t. The full stop happens regardless of what we believe.
So then. It’s a short life, we don’t have much time, and we don’t know how much. So what are we going to do?
What are you going to do? Are you going to fritter your time away in arguments, for example? Lots and lots of puerile fights and squabbles? Much trading of insults, hurling of abuse, petty scoring of points? Many do that, incessantly and repetitively, and I wonder how much time they think they have to actually live.
Perhaps you think the key purpose is to accumulate wealth, as pretty much everyone in this country seems to. Do the deals. Beat the competition. Fight for the bonus. Scrabble for more, and more, and more. Be what Steve Jobs said he wouldn’t be: the richest person in the cemetery.
What’s the game here? People, it all stops. You don’t take it with you, that wealth you waste every precious moment piling up around you. It gives you some freedoms and some pleasures, no doubt; but what next? After a while, it’s just the mounting stress of ownership and the creeping fear of loss. Money is not the juicer that allows you to squeeze more drops of joy out of this existence than anyone else. And if money doesn’t give you much happiness in your life, it won’t give it to your heirs and descendants either.
Life is not lived in the race to outdo others, to have more than them, to sneer and put them down, to snatch and grab. Life is lived, truly lived, in good moments: moments of peace, moments of goodwill, moments of contentment, moments of wonder, moments of accomplishment. No individual moment lasts, but taken together, they add up to a good life.
If we want to trade those precious moments for many more moments of bile, cynicism, envy and self-adoration, that’s our choice to make.
There is great beauty on this earth. The sun shines through the leaves, and we miss it. Children laugh, and we don’t hear them. People are kind, and we ignore them. All because we don’t know which moments to treasure, and which ones to discard quickly.
A life’s purpose is to build something, improve something, leave this place a little better than you found it. Some will produce great works, others small accomplishments. The point is to do something, anything, that adds to all that’s good in the world. To do it well, with good intention, and with all our heart. Then, we are alive.
It’s not for me to tell you how to spend your remaining time. Just know it will end soon, and don’t get into a last-minute panic searching for the point of it all as the end approaches. The point is all around you, every day.